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Politics & Policy

San Francisco district attorney, supervisors at odds over video in Banko Brown killing

A member of Urban Alchemy passes a memorial for Banko Brown on the sidewalk and along a chain-link fence outside a Walgreens at 825 Market St. in San Francisco on Thursday. Brown was shot and killed by an armed Walgreens security guard on April 27, 2023, following an incident between the two people. | RJ Mickelson/The Standard

The Board of Supervisors is expected to pass a resolution urging the public release of all information gathered by police in the Banko Brown killing on Tuesday—but won’t be pursuing an earlier call by Board President Aaron Peskin that would have urged District Attorney Brooke Jenkins to file new charges in the case.

But the calls to release evidence are putting lawmakers at odds with Jenkins, who said on Monday that releasing video footage or other information on the case would compromise the investigation.  

Supervisors will also likely call on Mayor London Breed to add 2,000 new shelter beds to the upcoming budget, and hear an update on getting troubled Laguna Honda Hospital back on track. 

Wonks can peruse this week’s fairly full agenda here.

Banko Brown Case

Last week, Peskin said that he would formally ask the board to urge District Attorney Brooke Jenkins to reconsider her decision to not charge Walgreens security guard Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony in the shooting death of activist Banko Brown in an alleged shoplifting incident. 

That ask has now evolved into a resolution urging Jenkins “to release police reports, witness accounts and video” of the incident, “that form the factual basis in the case presented by the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) for filing charges by the District Attorney.” 

Once passed, the board will join state Sen. Scott Wiener in calling for the public release of information around the Brown case.

Supervisors Connie Chan, Joel Engardio, Myrna Melgar and Shamann Walton are co-sponsoring the resolution, which is nonbinding. 

“We need to see the video first,” Peskin texted The Standard Monday, explaining the change. 

Co-sponsor Engardio worked with Peskin to amend the resolution. 

“It was premature to call for a different decision when we had not seen all of the evidence,” Engardio told The Standard in a text. “There is also the question of administrative interference, which supervisors are not allowed to do under the city charter. 

“This is an extraordinary case and I believe it is in the public interest for supervisors to call for the release of the video and evidence,” Engardio added. 

Julia Arroyo, director of the Young Women's Freedom Center, testifies to the Board of Supervisors on May 2 about the killing of Banko Brown | SFGTV screen grab

Peskin’s remarks followed two hours of emotional testimony from associates of Brown—who was Black, transgender and homeless according to testimony—during public comment last week. He was shot by Anthony on the evening of April 27 at the Walgreens located at 825 Market St. 

“It is very rare that the legislative branch wades into individual decisions of the district attorney, but if you heard the details that I heard, at a minimum, this appears to be a manslaughter case to this non-attorney,” Peskin said at the May 2 meeting.

Those who testified included people who worked with Brown at the the Young Women’s Freedom Center, where he volunteered, along with other Black community and homelessness advocates. Many expressed outrage over Jenkins releasing Anthony without charges.

The District Attorney announced on May 1 that upon review of statements and video footage, her office concluded that “the evidence clearly shows that the suspect believed he was in mortal danger and acted in self-defense.” 

By law, the DA must file charges or release a defendant within 72 hours. In this instance, the DA did choose to discharge the case. But the case was not dismissed, which means the DA still has the option to file murder charges, which have no statute of limitation.

According to a source with knowledge of the case who spoke anonymously with The Standard, the shooting was preceded by an altercation where Brown threatened to stab Anthony. Anthony told Brown to leave the store. According to the source, that is when Brown approached Anthony, who fired his gun.

Five Walgreens security guards also spoke anonymously to The Standard and said they had been ordered to start actively stopping shoplifters just two weeks before Anthony shot Brown. 

On May 2, Police Chief Bill Scott said there was no evidence Brown was carrying a knife or other weapon during the incident, but that he had spat at Anthony and raised one of his arms before Anthony shot him. Scott also said the investigation into the shooting was continuing. 

In a statement on Monday, Jenkins said that “releasing video, or any other evidence at this time could compromise the investigation.

“Looking at one piece of evidence alone in a vacuum, without consideration of all of the evidence available, is irresponsible, unethical, and antithetical to how we must carry out our legal responsibilities as prosecutors,” Jenkins said.

“If a final decision to charge the suspect is made, this case will be prosecuted in the courtroom, not in the press or on social media,” she said. “All evidence will be presented in the courts.”

If her offices decides not to bring charges, Jenkins said that it will release a report that provides a full accounting of the evidence and how the decision was made.

Shelter Debate

District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman discusses proposed solutions to shelter unhoused San Franciscans in front of recently built “tiny homes” for transitional housing on March 22, 2022. | David Sjostedt

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman’s resolution calling on Breed to add another 2,000 shelter beds to accommodate people living on the street is also on Tuesday’s agenda. It is expected to pass. 

It was unanimously recommended by the board’s Budget and Appropriations Committee last week and has the support of both business and neighborhood groups. The advocacy group RescueSF has submitted a proposal to the board to lease hotel rooms to provide the shelter space. 

“The City has cost-effective tools to bring 2,000 people inside next year,” RescueSF co-founder Mark Nagel in an email accompanying the plan. “The City’s current ‘go slow’ approach to addressing homelessness is ineffective, too expensive, and unacceptable.” 

While it’s likely to pass the board, implementation could be a heavy lift—the city is set for leaner times, and management at the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing is not a fan of what they see as a pivot away from supportive housing. 

Laguna Honda Update 

The exterior of Laguna Honda Hospital's main entrance
Laguna Honda Hospital patients, residents and staff walk through the hospital and treatment center’s grounds in San Francisco on May 16, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

The board will hear another update on the recertification process at Laguna Honda Hospital. The troubled facility is currently working with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency which funds the hospital, on a plan to improve its patient care procedures. 

At the last meeting, Laguna Honda’s Interim Director Roland Pickens told supervisors he expected the action plan to be fully implemented by a May 13 deadline. 

Team Pride in the Balance

Also up for a vote is Supervisor Matt Dorsey’s request for use of the city seal on jackets for him and his staff to wear while in the field doing constituent work. 

The request, which would seem routine in other places, has raised some only-in-San-Francisco concerns that include personal safety while donning the city’s seal. 

District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey, center, and San Francisco Public Works workers and District 6 volunteers stand on a street corner during a community cleaning event on Oct. 15, 2022. | Kori Suzuki for The Standard